Space as an Invention of Active Agents

Abstract : The question of the nature of space around us has occupied thinkers since the dawn of humanity, with scientists and philosophers today implicitly assuming that space is something that exists objectively. Here, we show that this does not have to be the case: the notion of space could emerge when biological organisms seek an economic representation of their sensorimotor flow. The emergence of spatial notions does not necessitate the existence of real physical space, but only requires the presence of sensorimotor invariants called "compensable" sensory changes. We show mathematically and then in simulations that naive agents making no assumptions about the existence of space are able to learn these invariants and to build the abstract notion that physicists call rigid displacement, independent of what is being displaced. Rigid displacements may underly perception of space as an unchanging medium within which objects are described by their relative positions. Our findings suggest that the question of the nature of space, currently exclusive to philosophy and physics, should also be addressed from the standpoint of neuroscience and artificial intelligence.
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Alexander Terekhov, J. Kevin O'Regan. Space as an Invention of Active Agents. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Frontiers Media S.A., 2016, 3, ⟨10.3389/frobt.2016.00004⟩. ⟨hal-02314833⟩

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